Sometimes, -15 is just -15

I’ve always hated the “wind chill” temperatures that are tossed around, almost as much as their humidex counterparts. They render meaningless actual temperature readings: sure, it feels different to be in a humid client vs. a dry climate, and yes, wind make a difference to how you experience any given temperature. But so do the types of buildings around you, exposed tracts of land, shade, sun, and how warmly you’re dressed. 28 degrees on a windless, humid Toronto day doesn’t feel like 40 degrees in the same climate: it feels like a very humid 28 degrees. -15 with wind doesn’t feel like -40 with wind.

The casual tossing-around of astronomically high and low wind chill/humidex temperatures gives people the false impression that they’ve actually experienced these temperatures on a regular basis — something generally soundly de-bunked when they move to someplace that actually has such temperature extremes.

So I was thrilled to see
Slate’s Daniel Engber tear apart the methodology in his call to end the wind chill madness:

Osczevski and Bluestein…geared their calculations toward people who are 5 feet tall, somewhat portly, and walk at an even clip directly into the wind. They also left out crucial variables that have an important effect on how we experience the weather, like solar radiation. Direct sunlight can make us feel 10 to 15 degrees warmer, even on a frigid winter day. The wind chill equivalent temperature, though, assumes that we’re taking a stroll in the dead of night.